What Is the Difference Between a Cafe Curtain Rod & Regular Curtain Rod?

Tom Streissguth

When decorating a window, consider the different looks offered by standard curtains and cafe curtains, also known as bistro curtains. Cafe curtains allow privacy but in most cases are easier to mount and are less expensive.

They make a good alternative for spaces that have a lot of traffic, such as kitchens, and are one of the most practical ways to treat certain window types.

Hanging Cafe Curtains

Hang cafe curtains from a rod positioned on the window frame or insert itself. An ordinary curtain rod is set over the top of a window in the wall surrounding the window frame. Cafe curtains typically cover the lower half of a window. They allow privacy while also keeping the upper half open for maximum light.


Cafe curtains hang from a series of rings that slide easily along a simple, solid rod, while you maneuver ordinary curtains with a rod's interior drawstring mechanism. Cafe curtains are very common in kitchen areas, such as in a window in a breakfast nook, positioned behind a sink or on a door leading into the kitchen from outside. Ordinary curtains don’t work so well in kitchens as the traffic and frequent cooking activity quickly gets them dirty and wears them out. Cafe curtains also work on a bathroom window or over a French door where ordinary curtains can be awkward.


You can use any type of curtain rod to hang café curtains, but the rods generally run quite a bit thinner and shorter than standard curtain rods that hang from the wall above a window. The material tends to be lighter than that used in ordinary curtain rods; in addition, the use of a sliding mechanism in a drawstring setup makes ordinary rods more fragile and more expensive.


The hardware you use to hang cafe curtain rods is quite simple to install in contrast to ordinary curtain rods, which require stronger anchors to bear the greater weight. Some cafe curtain rods require no hardware at all; instead they have an interior spring that stretches them to the required length without any secondary support attached to the window or frame.